Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not feeling it, projecting?

Holidays are tough. I get asked what my son is doing for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, etc. and it's a hard answer I have to give. One that makes me feel like I'm not doing anything for him. An answer that shuts down any further conversation.

If he gave me any indication of interest, I'd be all over it. Right now though, it's all about bouncing around on a yoga ball and waiting to be given the iPad.

This weekend we're probably going to go see Wreck it Ralph, to try something new. I have taken him to a movie before, a Sesame Street one, but this is a bit different.

Right now, I'm at a loss about what to do for him. And it's making me withdraw.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Still a story to tell

The remnants of Hurricane Sandy are blasting through Ohio today. That, along with the big storm that was already here are creating some high winds here. While I slept there were some snow flurries, nowhere near the foot that has buried parts of West Virginia.

So, we're good from the couch, unless the wind does some damage today.

My parents on Long Island seemed to fare the storm well. They did lose power for a short time, but it was back when I spoke to them a few minutes ago. It was quite windy, strong enough to blow over their gas grill.

As for Manhattan and some of the coastal areas, there's a lot of flood damage. Getting around is next to impossible, bridges and all of the tunnels save the Lincoln are shut down. Long Island is essentially cut off. The Southern New Jersey shore into Delaware and Maryland are in rough shape too, from what I'm reading and hearing.

Be safe east coast.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2004, repeated?

A quarter of the the games of the current NHL season have been cancelled due to the owner's lockout. The Winter Classic, the All Star Game, heck the whole season is in danger of being called off due to greed and an inability to share.

Yet on the twitters and local media it seems like there is little wrong. The Blue Jackets are updating the Springfield Falcons games as if they are just as important as a real game. They're all mercilessly tweeting every ice related event at Nationwide Arena as if Ryan Johansen had scored a hat trick against the Red Wings.

I'm not buying it. The players and owners are not even talking, not even on the same planet and another season is probably going to be lost.

What is going to bring me back once the inevitable is announced, in another week or two? Nothing. I'll be done with the NHL.

The Everton/Liverpool match was quite the exciting match this morning. The first half was a thrill. Liverpool goes up two goals then Everton roared back to even the score. Players were fighting, hard. I think they ran out of gas because the final 45 minutes was not as passionate. There were a lot of yellow cards, a lot of gnashing of teeth, but no goals. Liverpool had a goal disallowed because of a phantom off sides late in the match. Such is life in a world that is often cruel and unfair.

After a couple years of fits and starts, it is great to finally see the Goodale Park Fountain operating. It looks much better working than dry but I still think the elephants should be firing in opposite directions.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday goings

Ran a few errands today and while driving I saw the price of gas at one station go from $3.10 a gallon to $3.45, within about two hours. This is all Obama's fault, right?

Did a little thrifting, which is always hit or miss for me. Found a couple of interesting things amidst the throngs of people.

This is one of my favorite alcohol advertising icons, and I found a little wooden plaque of it that is now on the dining room wall.

I have no idea why I bought this, but I have to wonder what the heck it was doing on the rack at a thrift store in Whitehall. It cost three bucks, and I could not pass it up.

I mean, who does not need a 2004 Lazio F.C home shirt? Take the Puma logo off, and that is what I now own.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Addicted to sports

Last night at open mic I read a sports poem that was filled with a ton of references to losses I have experienced as a viewer. I freely admit to watching little television, but sports, I watch. Often. It probably is a crappy poem, but it made me feel better while writing it and putting it out there.

Later in the night, during a break, I was part of a quartet poets who were talking about video games. Well two of them were, the other guy and I just kind of looked at each other and nodded along.

I'm not a gamer. I have enough addictions to know how to avoid this one. But one of the poets was talking about a gaming experienced he had. He was riding a horse and having wonderful adventures with the horse and was going home to his virtual wife and kid. Coming down the mountain he heard a roar. It was a bear, and it suddenly killed his horse. The poet was in tears.

And that is what my poem was about.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Write about it, jinx it

Shared custody means alternating weekends, and this one is mine. He's been a pleasure to be around. Sleeping well, listening, getting out some new (to me, at least) words.

Friday afternoon he turned the light in the dining room on, sat at the table and said, "Hungry." This is a rarity. He ate everything without much dawdling too. In the evening he looked at me, said "Cereal" and went to the table. A definite plus when he shows interest in eating, anything.

Saturday morning I gave him his fruit while I mixed up his cereal. He usually has plenty left before I get it to him. Not so this time, he was done with it. After he ate he ran around the house in an agitated state. Not sure what this boded for his swimming lesson later in the morning.

He's been getting out of the pool early the past few weeks, coming up to us and saying "all done." And he is. You can't get him back in the pool.

This week his instructor used a ball as a motivator, and N. took to it. He followed it all over the pool. What was amazing is that he took it with him when he got out of the pool by the diving boards. He got on the board, threw the ball in and followed it. He had never jumped in the pool from that end without any pushing or prompting. He repeated this quite a few times. So many that I had a chance to shoot this.

He was great at the grocery, grouchy and screamy when I took the iPad from him. Interaction's been tough, but I've been a couch potato most of the weekend anyway. Too much interesting sports on the big screen tv!

Been following some distressing threads on Facebook about a few racial and sexual concerns. Conversations and confrontation that should be had, but it's dangerous seeing the mob enter the scene with their electronic pitchforks and torches. Been tough to watch that this weekend.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Things that give you hope

Not a follower of Katy Perry, but this is an amazing thing she did with Jodi DiPiazza.

The kid has come a long way. Every kid is different. You never know what is going to happen, what is going to blow you away. Every day.

You cannot give up, not when songs like this are done. You can't.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Stand Up Man

Jack McCarthy is one of the best American voices out there. He's been in the public eye since he started reading in Boston twenty years ago, when he was in his mid fifties.

Since then Jack has been a part of the Poetry Slam community on two coasts and has published books and cds. All of them to nothing but positive acclaim.

He came to Writers' Block in 2007 and his tone and demeanor switched a light on in me, one that blinked that a poem does not have to be shouted to have impact and power. Since then I've lost sight of that light more than a few times but Jack's work has resonated in my head ever since.

I've posted this poem before, but it deserves another view.

Jack's website, gives you plenty of information about him, and includes some of his poems and videos.

Jack's health has been fading, but he's still able to attend an occasional reading. Susan Dobbe Chase recently conducted a bittersweet interview with him by phone that you can listen to here.

I'm glad I got to see him once, but sad that the opportunity will most likely not happen again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finally, rest

This is the first morning in quite some time that I have been able to sleep in past nine o'clock.

Been quite the busy time since my return from Fayetteville. In addition to work there was an Arts Fest meeting, open mic, movie night and other assorted doctor's appointments for my son.

The new one (fourth this year) has recommended in-patient therapy, possibly in Indiana. Six years ago he was approved for in-patient therapy, but at the last minute the insurance company reneged in the claim, saying that food was not considered medically necessary.

It's taken six years to get back to this point, where would he be if the claim had originally been approved?

If he needed lap band surgery or had a substance abuse problem, zoom, right in and covered, but this eating disorder thing, I guess that's hard to justify to a bean counter.

As for FMLA and Indiana, we'll see what this place's track record is first before investing 4-6 weeks of time and lost income.

In other news we bought a new TV on Friday night. After all the research and people who said we MUST have a 42" (or larger!) we got a 32" and that is quite sufficient for what we need and the size of the living room.. Had to call the cable company for them to set up the cable box, but that was the only problem. It looks fine, watched the baseball game Friday night and was impressed. I can see the numbers on the screen and The Who at the London Coliseum looked great.

Also read Pete Townshend's new book in which he is sexually confused, drinks, is sexually confused, writes great songs, has sex with groupies, drinks, has sex with his wife, is sexually confused, drinks, does cocaine, has sex with groupies, drinks, stops doing drugs, drinks, has sex with groupies...

Yeah, could have been better, you bet.

Monday, October 8, 2012

IWPS - Final verse

The alarm woke me on Saturday morning and I felt horrible. I wish I could say I was hungover, but I did not have any booze the night before.

Took a quick shower and got soaked on the way to Little Bread. Got a bagel with cream cheese, coffee, and a chocolate croissant then headed back to the room to follow the morning's soccer action.

Happily, I found a great audio link via to get a live audio stream of all of the matches. Free!

But this is not about Everton getting a draw at Wigan.

The food did not make me feel better, it was not staying in its place for the right amount of time. Lied down and tried to sleep some before J.W. Bazillo's workshop. It was not going to happen.

Ended up watching Arkansas beat Auburn, hey Auburn are really terrible!

Began to feel a little better, possibly able to leave the room without need for a restroom every fifteen minutes so I went to Rogue to check out the comedy open mic.

It was hosted by The Klute, a wickedly funny guy sporting a fez. I signed up, ended up going first and read Spam Folder of Love.

I have no idea how it went over. There were not many people there at first. By the time I was to read again there were more people. I got called up and read An Obscene Phone Call From Mr. Potato Head. This was better received, I think.

There was some wit with a bite, as a work poem by a guy named Toaster demonstrated. Ethan did Toast and river danced on the stage. The second half was much improved on the first.

Felt even better so I went to the Hawg Haus for a burger and some bourbon before headed to finals.

Four of the finalists I had been in bouts with during the tournament. Three of them in my Friday night bout. I thought the quality of the work in these finals was much higher than what I saw in Berkeley. Most of the poets were outstanding. More on that in a bit.

Thuli Zuma's work is heartbreakingly beautiful. Her second poem about feeling guilt for the color of her skin knocked me out. 6 is 9 did a frantic and clever reading about cocaine and why it really became illegal. Franny Choi's Letter from Jessica Alba to Her Father turned the tables on some cliches. Seth Walker's poem from the persona of a tree that tries to prevent a suicide was an amazing example of body use in performance poetry. He also came up to the stage for his third poem, realized he had the wrong paper - ran back to his seat, found the right paper and sprinted back to the stage. Yes, there was a time penalty! It was a pleasure seeing G. Yamazawa on finals stage as he had been in both my bouts.

Ed Mabrey won it all, by just a tenth of a point over Thuli. So close! Ed was one of the first poets I saw in open mic in Columbus in 2006. The man has a voice, a set of pipes that always amaze me. It was so cool to be on the same stage with him on Friday and then to see him win his second IWPS title.

One poet has evoked some controversy. She read a letter to a person who raped her friend. The accused rapist was a poet in the room. I've been thinking a lot about this over the past couple of days. Read more than a few Facebook status updates and a good blog about building a safe poetry scene. Still have not really come to a conclusion. Not sure if that was exactly the right forum for this to be read. Not sure if it was the perfect forum. Wondering what an audience member, who may have been attending their first poetry slam thought about the poem. Would continually seeing poets beefing on other poets bring an increased audience of non poets into slam events or open mics?

There's a lot to digest. A lot of conversation is still necessary concerning safe spaces for women in poetry. It's ugly, but should not and can not be hidden.

But it's not going to be solved on social media sites.

Here's the part where I name drop the cool people I met. It's hard for me to meet people. I'm not an extrovert and rarely engage in deeper talk with people I have just met. Introducing myself to new people, even if we're in the same field, terrifies me.

I'll start with my driver, Josh. Thanks for the ride, and the tour on the way to Fayetteville from the airport. Your volunteering was much appreciated by many.

The people of the Little Bread Company. Your spirit and support of poetry was well respected. The baked goods you make are nothing short of delicious on a level that is not of this world. I have no idea if I ever will return to Fayetteville. But if I do, keep a cream puff for me. And if anyone reading this has to go to Fayetteville, you must go here!

Greg Bee. I met him at the Last Chance Slam, which he won. Such a kind and open man. A poet with a huge heart. He's an older poet and we bonded over being of a certain age, and in slam. Not too many of us out there.

Elizag. Another poet of a certain age. I did not realize she was from my home state. She reads tough. She talks smart. She's just getting started and is eager to learn. Maybe we will start the poets over 45 support group!

Leah Noble Davidson. Another poet just getting started. She has a farm girl's style and the soul of someone very wise. I predict we're going to read big work from her.

Jesse Parent. I wish we talked more. I had no idea he was Sonnets the Clown at Extreme Championship Poetry until he took the wig off. I still have not seen him read. This has to change.

Dogmatic. Saw him read and the comedy open mic and we had a good conversation about funny poems at the after party.

Wish I stayed more at the after party, but it was a smoking bar and I had not been in one in years. My eyes were freaking out on me.

Jenith Charpentier. Another first time poet at a national event. She asked me to take pictures of some good luck charms her daughters made for her. How could I refuse?

Cynthia French. It was good to finally meet her and see her skate around during Extreme Championship Poetry. She also read some good work at the comedy open mic.

Tapesty. Read some of the most gut revealing work I've experienced at a slam. This man has been in war and told stories. Deeply revealing. Then he plays Jack Deadman at Extreme Championship Poetry. Very cool!

Stephen Sargent. Energetic man from Austin. We met during his first bout, which was after mine on Friday. Pleasure to watch him work the stage.

The Klute. Bill Campana suggest I meet him. I think if I saw Klute and Campana together I'd need to wear diapers. These two are extremely dark, funny men. I was honored to be asked to be an audience of one for him rehearsing his one minute piece.

And I again thank Ethan Rivera for making himself available for me to vent my stress at him during my first bout. He did not have to be there, but it was good to have a person I actually knew for assistance.

Thanks to everyone at Writers' Block, especially Louise Robertson and Scott Woods, who dealt with my angst filled emails. And a big thanks again to everyone who assisted me financially. Give me time to get cds and other gifts together.

The biggest thanks goes to my wife, my biggest supporter, who painted the living room in my absence and watched my son while I was out of town. I love you.

To all the organizers, drivers, names I have mistakenly omitted and volunteers of IWPS: a big thank you and well done. I admit to being skeptical about having to go to Fayetteville, but came away really enjoying the community. You have a great scene.

Got back yesterday after a delay in leaving that required a push back of my flight from Atlanta. No other problems. Even had the exit seat legroom on the trip home. Shared the row with a young man who works for Abercrombie & Fitch, whose travel reading was the latest by Tucker Max. No fight broke out, we talked about our fantasy football teams.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Final word: Champions

The temperature dropped about 30 degrees yesterday from Thursday. Storms rolled through and it rained a bit. It is seemingly impossible to find an umbrella in this part of town. Dodged the mist and damp to find a place called the Little Bread Company, which is a short walk from the Hotel.

This place was fantastic. Everything made on premises, from scratch. Almost like Stauf's, but smaller and friendlier. I had my breakfast sandwich in a seat directly across from the display case, and was enticed by a huge plate of cream puffs. These cream puffs were different, as they were covered in chocolate. I told the cashier I'd be back for one of those cream puffs after my walk.

Hit Dickson Street in the vain attempt at umbrella shopping. Got some souvenirs at the campus bookstore and went up the big hill that would take me to Clinton House.

In the mid 1970's Bill Clinton was (as was Hillary), for a brief time, a law professor at the University of Arkansas. And he already lived in one place in Fayetteville. As he was driving Hillary to the airport she noted how much she liked this house. When she got back from the trip, Bill told her he bought the house and asked her to marry him. They were married in the living room. Until they bought the house in Chappaqua, it was the on;y home they ever owned.

Not the best of presidential homes I've visited, but the guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and I washed my hands in the same sink the Clinton's used.

Got soaked on the way back. Still went back to Little Bread. The cream puff was other worldly.

After a beer sandwiched by two whiskies the night before, I was not in the best shape to attend an early workshop, but did save up my energy to attend Extreme Championship Poetry. Rob Sturma did a great job organizing the event. There were costumes, bad guys, heels, baby faces. It was like watching a night of RAW, but poets fought with words and not steel chairs.

Oh yeah, I was in a bout last night. Two and three minute rounds. I was in the three slot. Did Nine Bullets at Qimchok, got a score I thought was ok. Then, two poets later, the scores burst open and I was last in the round. Poets brought their game. Tables were turned. I went last in the three minute round did To My Son on His 10th Birthday and called it a weekend. Got seventh in the round. Was very happy how I did despite the whoszitwhatheheckjusthappeneditz of the first round.

How tough was my bout last night? Three of the poets ended up on finals stage. All deserved. G. Yamazawa (Who I was in the bout with on Thursday), Cameron and Ed Mabrey will all be onstage tonight. I was also in the bout on Thursday with Melissa May, who is also in finals. I like competing against the best, it brings up your own game and gives the audience a entertaining show.

Went to Matt Miller's Art Studio to see how Ethan did and to see the late bout there. Between rounds one of the judges abruptly left, flipping off one of the organizers as he left. Still not quite sure what happened there. A little spot of drama that did not effect the results.

I kept checking the overall results online to see who would end up in finals. One bout's results were late being posted. I'm sure a few poets were sweating it out. Then the scores were released. It's going to be a very good final.

As for my overall ranking, I went from 28 to 45. Would have not liked to have dropped that far but what can you do? I'm pleased with my work. Had a great time. My main goal was to finish in the middle of the pack, and not near last place like Berkeley. It happened. Again, thank you all for your thoughts and messages of support.

Winding down today. Listening to Everton vs. Wigan, getting ready for the poet picnic. Hope to read at the comedy showcase this afternoon. Then the finals and after party. I do not think I socialized as much as I would have liked, but damn, my energy is limited these days. Staying up late is hard.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A thunderstorm is rolling though here right now, and I did not bring an umbrella.

There are hills here in Fayetteville. They're kind of steep. Not San Francisco steep, but close enough. When I travel, I realize how out of shape and car dependent I am. It's a pleasant place to walk around in though, and I took advantage of the morning to get lost, then found, then upset the place I wanted to go had not opened about a half an hour past its opening time. I'm talking about you Clinton House.

Going to try and go back there to visit, not sure if there's going to be a downpour though, and I do not want to fight a river of water on a hill.

Had poet orientation, got a great bag of swag that far, far exceeds what Berkeley did. Sorry, but it's true! This year's poet badge is made of wood, with the information all burned into it then darkened with tattoo ink. It's badass.

Before my bout I went to a workshop on comedy given by Big Poppa E. Quite entertaining and I learned a few things. He also ended up hosting the bout I was in.

The four minute round was tough. I went 9th out of eleven. Did After Birth and ended up with the 4th best score in the round. One of the judges came up to me afterwards, said I made her cry. Her five year old brother has autism.

In the one minute round I did An Obscene Phone Call from Mr. Potato Head and had the room going. One young lady tweeted that she 'felt violated by dirty Mr. Potato Head'

My work was done. It was time for a MacCallan.

It scored well. But it was part of a trio of three scores in a row that were there same. Judging was very consistent and fair, but in the second round three scores were a 26.2 and three others were a 26.5. It was all very close. Melissa May took the night in our bout. Another guy named G. Yamazawa also did very well. He's in my bout tonight, too.

Overall I got a 4 and a 6. A ten ranking that places me in 28th position overall. I am shocked in a most pleasant way. The trick is to maintain it.

You can peruse the scores and follow along live tonight here

I also want to thank Ethan Rivera for being very supportive last night. He performed in the same venue in the later bout but was there the whole time. It was good to have a friendly face to vent my stress too when necessary. His bout had some odd judging. I did not think it was consistent, but that's what slam is all about. You never know what is going to happen.

Tonight is the two and three minute round, and I'm hating on all my work today. I will be in a better frame of mind later though. I've met some very cool people and am having a great time. Thanks for all your support and well wishes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I'm at Scarpinos at seven.

Made it to Fayetteville with little fuss. Delta flights were on time with no drama. The flight from Memphis to the Northwest Regional Airport was surprisingly short.

After a brief wait, my ride to town arrived and I got a quick tour of the Northwest Arkansas countryside before getting to the hotel.

The hotel rooms are too good for poets. Large, comfortable beds. Amenities. Clean. The a/c unit is not very quiet but it's a minor complaint.

Got myself registered, realized I had no idea who more than 3/4 of the poets competing are and got myself some food. Found a place called Hugo's, which is a dive burger joint, just the place I needed.

Dickson Street reminds me of Byers Road in Glasgow. A lot of shops, bars and eating establishments. Since I'm in a college town, there is a lot of fast food but the powers that be try to keep it interesting. It's kept fairly clean, which was a pleasant surprise.

The University itself is a mish mash of old and new construction. It's also set on some hills, some are steeper than others. Good exercise.

On the way to the student union for the Last Chance Slam, I looked down on the sidewalk and saw many names carved into the pavement. This is called The Senior Walk, and it celebrates all of the graduating classes of the university. This tradition has been happening since 1906. There are miles of names on the sidewalks of the University of Arkansas, a very cool tradition.

The slam was lengthy. Seventeen poets competed for what turned out to be two slots in IWPS. Thankfully there were only two rounds, with a cut to seven after the first round. It was won by a Seattle poet named Greg Bee, who I met before the slam as we recognized each other as "old poets." I'm pretty sure he and I are the same age. He's been involved in the scene since about 2004 if I remember right.

The other poet who earned a slot in IWPS is Lauren Zuniga, for Oklahoma City, I think. I've seen her on stage at WoW in Columbus and her work is solid.

Could not stay up late as I was exhausted, but I was also disappointed the hotel bar closed at 11PM. Would not have minded a night cap before going to bed.

Woke up around 5:30AM, tried to go back to sleep. Said the heck with it and took a shower then wrote this.

Off to find breakfast, take a walk before the cold front blasts through and most importantly, get ready for tonight's slam.

There is work to do at seven.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

That other song by the Deutschendorf fellow

Now that I've found a kicker for my fantasy football team, I can go.

I leave for Fayetteville, Arkansas in a couple of hours to represent Writers' Block Poetry in the Individual World Poetry Slam. As ready as I'm going to get.

Unlike Berkeley in 2009, I have a better idea of what to expect. I plan to socialize a little more, which is very hard for me to do and I want to finish a bit further from last place this time. Fair enough goals?

Will try to update as much as I can. We'll see how the hotel wifi is. I'm guessing Facebook and Twitter updates will occur too. It's a college town, of course there's wifi!

I want to thank everyone at Writers' Block for their support as well as those who have contributed to my trip. I really want to thank my wife the most. She'll be watching my son for a couple of nights and has a project of her own that she's going to be working on while I'm out of the house.

Now, to get the kid on the school bus.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Really should start packing, or pacing

Today I am home with a sick child. The boy has a cold and cough. He got some rest last night, but needs more - and for the cough to diminish some more. Hoping I do not get what he has because I'm going to IWPS tomorrow and having a voice is kind of important in a poetry slam.

Yesterday was also his IEP meeting, which is always an hour of lost hope for me. I'd go on about it, but it's too damn depressing. I also had my goals and objectives meeting at work, which is all I'm going to say about that here, too. A double whammy I do not recommend anyone having to go through in a day.

Trying to get my act together for the trip to Fayetteville, it's tough with all the other stuff that is going on. All I can say is that I'm going to do my best.